The NWSL Expansion Draft on Thursday will enable Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC to build out their rosters for their inaugural seasons in 2022. A handful of clubs have secured trades to protect any players from being poached in the expansion draft. Multiple eligible clubs have submitted their protected and unprotected player list ahead of the event.
Date: Thursday, Dec. 16 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
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While there were some big names left on unprotected lists, such as Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign) and Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), it's unlikely the two veterans will be selected. Reign forwards cannot be selected by Angel City and San Diego finalized a trade for forward Alex Morgan ahead of the expansion draft. The Thorns already have roster protection from Angel City and, according to Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer, have an agreement to protect the core of their roster from San Diego in the expansion draft which will be announced after the event.
If you scour the unprotected names remaining on the list, you'll still find a good dose of experienced players with proven talent in this league. Let's take a look at three players either Southern California club should target during the expansion draft starting with the player who would make the biggest impact to others who could be sleeper picks.
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1. Kristie Mewis, midfielder, Houston Dash
You won't find more talent than the pool of midfielders available, with Kristie Mewis, who was placed on the Dash's unprotected list, viewed as the brightest of the bunch. The U.S. allocated midfielder has been with the Houston side since 2017, and is coming off a 2020 Challenge Cup title and U.S. Olympic bronze medal as of late.
There are rumblings that she may sign a short loan with Tottenham after being spotted in trainings with the team. With no deals in place for full or partial roster protection (and no announcements of a departure made), Angel City or San Diego Wave could in theory pluck Mewis to bulk up their midfield attack.
2. Jordan DiBiasi, midfielder, Washington Spirit
DiBiasi is another midfielder among the unprotected lists that could be picked up in the expansion draft process. The Washington Spirit have full roster protection from San Diego Wave FC, so they are out of the picture. And while Angel City made a move with Chicago Red Stars for the player rights to USWNT midfielder Julie Ertz, if they want to add more NWSL-ready midfielders, DiBiasi would be a solid option.
The midfielder struggled with injury during the 2021 NWSL regular season, but made 20 starts in 22 appearances for the Spirit, with four goals during her rookie season with the team in 2019. The Colorado native also has California roots as a Stanford alum and could benefit from a fresh start after falling in the depth charts to other Spirit midfielders Dorian Bailey and Bayley Feist.
3. Marisa Viggiano, midfielder, Orlando Pride
The Orlando Pride have no roster protection leading into the expansion draft and have several midfielders among their unprotected player list. Viggiano can be an option for either California side looking to grow their midfield depth. Drafted in 2019 out of Northwestern, Viggiano made 14 starts over 19 appearances and scored one goal. In 2020, a COVID outbreak forced Orlando out of the inaugural Challenge Cup, with the Pride only participating in the 2020 Fall Series where Viggiano finished as the team's top scorer with two goals in four appearances.
The midfielder dealt with a nagging foot injury during the 2021 regular season, but finished out the year making 14 starts over 21 appearances and one goal scored. She leads the team in pass completion into the final third with 82.1% [900 minutes minimum].